Beaufort News

City Council might limit organizations involved in downtown parking system

Beaufort City Council agreed Tuesday there are too many organizations involved in monitoring and correcting problems with its new downtown parking system and discussed removing the Redevelopment Commission from the mix.

Council members handed over parking management to the commission last year, which then hired Lanier Parking Solutions, known locally as Park Beaufort, to design and enforce a new system.

Main Street Beaufort, USA, which promotes downtown redevelopment and commerce, was also tapped to help with the transition.

All three entities receive funding from parking revenues.

But even with those three organizations at the helm, city staff continue devoting many hours to parking problems, and many expect city council members to address any issues that arise, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

Meanwhile, some residents have raised concerns since council -- after hearing recommendations from the three entities -- voted to raise the hourly parking rate and ticket fees, increase enforcement and replace many of the traditional coin meters with new electronic paystations.

"My view is that we got off to a bad start," Keyserling said. "We had things we did not anticipate."

The question remains "where do you go to fix the problem?" he said.

One way is getting rid of the multiple layers, said Keyserling, who added that having the Redevelopment Commission manage parking when all final decisions are made by council puts the commission in an "awkward situation."

"The expectation is we're on City Council and we should be able to solve the problems," Keyserling said. "Ultimately it's going to come back to us."

Representatives of Park Beaufort and Main Street Beaufort, USA agreed that having a more clearly defined leader on the issue could help get problems solved faster.

City Manager Scott Dadson said it would still make sense for the commission to receive parking revenue funds even if its not overseeing the system because its money is spend on redevelopment efforts and revitalization, much of which will take place in the downtown area.

Commission chairman Bob Pinkerton said he "would be delighted" if the commission no longer managed parking.

Main Street Beaufort, USA, and City Council agreed that more work is needed on the system, including a look at whether parking should cost less at spots that are not along Bay Street, the main commercial corridor.

Council members also said the city needs to look at issues regarding signs, whether there should be more kiosks per block and longer time limits on Bay Street.

Council asked the entities to come back in two weeks with recommendations for changes that could be implemented after the holiday season. Downtown parking is free through the month of December.